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Posts Tagged ‘Phil Hughes’

“Not interested” have seemingly become Brian Cashman’s favorite two words, which hasn’t exactly been music to the ears of many Yankees fans (or agents hoping to ignite a bidding war). Although it’s easy to see why Cashman would remain aloof when it comes to big ticket free agents or inflated trade demands seeking the team’s best prospects, the cold shoulder given to pitchers like Hiroki Kuroda and Roy Oswalt has been harder for many to understand.

Is Roy Oswalt the best option for the Yankees? (Photo: AP)

As the winter has progressed, and the Yankees’ Hot Stove has remained without a flame, there has been a growing disenchantment among the fan base. All of sudden, the likes of Oswalt and Kuroda have become “must haves”, and the Yankees’ lack of interest a sign of irrational fiscal restraint. Earlier, I suggested the team might be in a warped version of a rebuilding mode, and apparently, many in the Yankees’ Universe have taken that sentiment a little too much to heart.

Whether or not the Yankees are laying the foundation for when Cole Hamels becomes a free agent next season, there is no reason for the team to make a rash decision on players whom, only weeks ago, most would have agreed weren’t a great fit. After all, is a 34-year old Oswalt, who is coming off a season with a bad back, really what the Yankees need? Is a 37-year old Kuroda, who has spent his brief career in the NL West, any better?

As constituted, the Yankees’ rotation has several question marks, but the only real candidate to be removed for an acquisition would be Phil Hughes. Considering his struggles over the last season and a half, many fans would likely welcome a veteran replacement, but should the Yankees be willing to pull the plug on a pitcher who was not only a highly touted prospect, but has had some success in the major leagues? Granted, penciling Hughes into the rotation represents a risk, but the potential reward (a young, reliable starter under team control for three more years) suggests it should be one the Yankees are willing to take, especially when contrasted against what could be expected from some of the proposed alternatives.

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The last two slots in the Yankees’ starting rotation remain up for grabs, but the order of the first three has been officially established.

To the surprise of some, Joe Girardi announced that A.J. Burnett, not Phil Hughes, would follow CC Sabathia in the pecking order. Many have speculated that Girardi’s commitment to Burnett is really about instilling confidence in the enigmatic right hander, but in reality, the decision accurately reflects the current state of the Yankees’ rotation. For better or worse, Burnett is the Yankees’ second best pitcher.

Ten Worst* Seasons by a Yankees Starter, 1961-2010

Player Year ERA+ ERA GS IP W L
Terry Mulholland 1994 71 6.49 19 120.2 6 7
Richard Dotson 1988 80 5.00 29 171 12 9
Mike Kekich 1972 80 3.70 28 175.1 10 13
Scott Sanderson 1992 80 4.93 33 193.1 12 11
Mike Kekich 1971 80 4.07 24 170.1 10 9
Melido Perez 1993 80 5.19 25 163 6 14
Andy Hawkins 1989 81 4.80 34 208.1 15 15
A.J. Burnett 2010 81 5.26 33 186.2 10 15
Ron Guidry 1984 84 4.51 28 195.2 10 11
Rudy May 1981 86 4.14 22 147.2 6 11

*Ranked by ERA+. Includes pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

Burnett’s 2010 season was historically bad, but it should also be noted that it was a career outlier. His ERA+ of 81 and WAR of 1.3 were both the lowest totals for any season in which he pitched at least 100 innings. Burnett’s next lowest ERA+ in a full season was 104 in 2008 (the same year he won a career high 18 games).  In other words, it would be shortsighted to project Burnett’s 2011 performance based on one extraordinarily poor year. (more…)

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